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Supreme Court will start hearing cases by teleconference

Supreme Court will start hearing cases by teleconference


And it’s streaming them live

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Photo by Olivier Douliery / AFP via Getty Images

The Supreme Court will start conducting oral arguments over teleconference, a major change spurred by the novel coronavirus pandemic. For six days in May, the court will hear cases that were postponed last month, including some related to President Donald Trump’s tax returns. It will also stream a live audio feed — another first for the court.

The court hasn’t set dates for the 10 cases it will hear, but they’ll be scheduled sometime on May 4th, 5th, 6th, 11th, 12th, and 13th. A press release says they’ll be conducted over “telephone conference,” which probably means audio-only arguments, given the court’s resistance to cameras in the courtroom. Justices and counsel will all participate remotely to maintain their distance during the pandemic.

The press release says audio will be provided to “news media,” but according to SCOTUS Blog, it’s actually being made public — not just streamed for accredited press. You can already find recordings of oral arguments online; they’re typically released at the end of each argument week. This will be the first time that people can listen to the cases live, though.

The current list doesn’t include high-profile copyright case Google v. Oracle, which was set for a hearing on March 24th. It does include three cases covering whether Congress can demand access to Donald Trump’s financial records. It also includes the interesting USPTO v., a dispute over whether you can trademark a generic word if you add a site domain like “.com.”

More details are supposed to be released as we approach the first hearing dates — and with much of the country still sheltering in place during the pandemic, they may not be the last.